Monday, October 8, 2007

Shoot First... ask questions later?


Originally posted 9/22/07

Last week while running errands I had the radio in the van tuned to a local radio call in show that addresses issues in the news. On that particular day, the issue at hand was Ontario's Grade 8 HPV vaccination program. In case you're not familiar with this, it's pretty simple. 8th grade girls (13-14) are being offered an immunization for free (free to 8th graders only, otherwise it's around $400 bucks for the 3 shots), that immunizes them from the HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer, and some other serious health issues. You can read more about this program in Ontario, right here.

Now, because I have a Christian worldview and because I see moral issues all over this, I can't help think back to another radio program I listened to years ago. The speaker was a woman who was the product of rape, and who's very young teen mother chose not to abort but carry her baby to term and give her up for adoption. The baby grew up in a Christian home and went on to become an inspirational speaker to young women on the all important topic of purity and living your life according to the standard of God's word. During the brief time I heard her on the radio that day, she said something that has remained with me to this day. What she said was an answer given to the question of how she feels about contraceptives being handed out for free, in public school systems. Advocates of these programs will assure you that it's keeping the children (and let's face it, they are children) safe from unwanted pregnancies and a whole host of STDs. No argument about it, contraceptives are designed to do exactly that, and most of the time they work.

Her answer however was something I didn't expect. She said "does the Bible teach that we should not sin, or that since we're going to sin anyway, that we should sin safely?" In supporting the local school's contraceptive programs she believed it was a compromise of conviction. Either you genuinely believe that abstinance is the right way until marraige, or you sell out and teach your kids to sin safely. I'd never really heard anyone say it that way before, and it summed up my own thoughts on this sort of thing, perfectly. Our 17 yr old Jessica was fortunate enough to hear this speaker just last year at a girl's conference.

In thinking about the Ontario HPV program, I can't help but apply the same line of reasoning. The advocates of the program insist that it's a major health benefit for young women, and that's a reasonable claim, even though they only have five years of research to back them up on this. I didn't read that at the website linked above, I heard it from a doctor on the radio program promoting it. All reasonable claims aside, there are a whole host of questions worth considering if you're a parent in Ontario, with an 8th grade aged daughter - such as:

1) Would my consent to have my daughter immunized send the wrong message to her about sexual activity at such a young age?
2) If I do not consent, will it really matter anyway since the age of consent in Ontario is 14 anyway?
3) Would this be a good thing for her to get now, and as she remains pure until marraige, protect her in case her husband did not remain pure? (Oddly blurring the lines between preventative physical health care and preventative moral-health care?)
4) Am I confident enough in just 5 years of studies to allow my daughter to be used as a test case in Ontario? (Twenty years from now the girls being immunized today, will be for the most part, nameles research stats - except for the ones that had serious adverse reactions, and their names along with their ages and every other documentable detail about them, will be well known among at least the medical community - and they'll be filed into the "extremely rare" side affects category)

Regarding question #1, if you're a parent of a teenager, you already know full well that sometimes it doesn't matter what you say to them or how often you've said it, they know better than you anyway. Most people also remember quite well how as a young person, they felt incredibly invincible and that bad things (such as teen pregnancy and contracting an STD) only happened to other people. Teenagers in general are part alien, and they take a lot of risks that they wouldn't dare repeat when they get ten years older. Put all this into the context of a.) "I've had the shot, I'm safe" and b.) the incredible peer pressure teens are under to be/do just like "everyone else" and c.) the passions and emotions that can invade the brain and usher in the worst possible choices when teenage boys and girls are alone together. We all know exactly what I'm referring to here.

Regarding question #2, if you're a parent in Ontario you may or may not know that the age of consent is 14 years old. Broken down in simple terms that means your 14 year old daughter can have sex with whomever she choses who is at least over the age of 14 as well, she can obtain health care and abortions without your permission, and you never even have to be legally notified of it. Several years ago a local cop told me the most heartbreaking story concerning this law. A mother called in the local police station in tears, to report her daughter as a missing person. Not having any idea what happened to her or where she was, she felt this was the only other thing to do. Not long afterward, this particular cop located the girl. He said she was a "tiny little thing", looking more like about 10 or 11 than her real age of 14. He found her living with a 50+ year old man, trading sex for a place to stay. He couldn't arrest the man, couldn't force the girl into custody or take her home. He couldn't do a thing, except plead with the girl to leave and go home. Sadly the girl did not return home because home meant doing dishes and taking out the trash and she didn't like those rules. The cop said he sees this all the time, and it just makes him sick to his stomach that the age of consent was ever lowered to include these little girls who are victimized and abused daily. Yet, the government of Ontario has decided 14 year old girls are old enough, wise enough, and mature enough to make these decisions on their own. If you're a parent in Ontario and you chose not to have your girl immunized, and she wants it anyway, she can get it and you likely wont ever know, unless she chooses to tell you.

Regarding question #3, as for me personally I don't have enough information yet to make this decision. There are far too many IFS in place that make me extremely cautious about making this choice, for this reason of "safety later". IF I knew it was safe and effective (five years of case studies isn't nearly long enough for me to place any confidence in an injection into my child's body), IF I knew getting the shot wouldn't only add to my daughter's air of invincibility as a teenager. If there is any kind of benefit as far as I can see, and all these factors would be in place, then this would be the only positive aspect for having this immunization.

Which brings me to question #4, and technically I've already stated my concerns about that. In the world of pharmacueticals, what do they know in five years compared to what they know about the same drug, 10, 15 or 20 years later? Color me skeptical, but I'm simply not convinced that something approved after only five years is as safe as I would want it to be. Not for me and certainly not for my daughter (which is exactly what one woman caller said on the call in radio show last week). While the woman caller was certainly pro preventative health care, and so am I, she wasn't prepared to use her daughter as a guinea pig (her words) for the Ontario government. As I drove and heard her say those words, I nodded in agreement.

So I just wonder... if something like this was offered in your state/province, where would you stand on it?


Over the last couple of weeks I have begun to notice a tv commercial promoting this vaccine. We have sat tv and get both US and Canadian networks, but so far I have only seen the Canadian commercials. In the television ad, a young girl is shown on the screen talking about how she's taking charge of her health and safety because she's smart. Heavy emphasis is placed on her making the choice to get this vaccine, because of how smart she is. Then the ad shows her in some typical junior high/high school settings, such as playing basketball and hanging out with friends. The message is loud and clear that in all liklihood this is a girl in the 8th grade (13-14), since this is the target age for the vaccination right now. It did not escape my thoughts that the real message its sending is that if you are someone who has chosen NOT to get this vaccine, then you are clearly not smart. Ads like that go a long way in the minds of young girls - they surely don't want anyone to think they're stupid!

So, just how smart are these girls? I'd guess they (and their parents) simply believed all the good stuff they were told about it, and left it at that. I'm sure it's helped immensely that a BIG part of the material being put out about this is that it prevents cancer. It's been said many times, all you need to do is slap the "C" word on something and claim to have answers for it, and you'll get all kinds of attention, in your favor. Interestingly, in one article I read this:

Local public health departments are also doing their best to get the word out. "Any time a new vaccine is introduced, we'd like as much information as possible to be provided," said Barbara Yaffe, associate medical officer of health in Toronto.(source)

Since local health departments are so eager to get the word out about this drug I thought I'd do my part and provide some further information that has come to light in the last few days, stateside:

8 more deaths connected to HPV vaccine
Adverse reactions from Gardasil number in thousands
Posted: October 6, 20071:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2007

Another eight deaths in just the past few months are being connected to Gardasil, Merck & Co.'s vaccine that targets the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus and is being considered by many states as mandatory for all schoolgirls, according to documents released by Judicial Watch. There also have been another 1,824 adverse reactions to the drug, bringing the "known total" of such problems to 3,461, according to the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption. "In light of this information, it is disturbing that state and local governments might mandate in any way this vaccine for young girls," said Tom Fitton, the group's president. "These adverse reactions reports suggest the vaccine not only causes serious side effects, but might even be fatal." (source)

So then... just how smart are these girls and their parents who are signing the consent forms? If I can offer any useful information about this, it would simply be to DO YOUR HOMEWORK on this drug called Gardasil. Know what it is, what it does, and the side affects being reported not just in Canada but in the states as well.